Officers capture escaped convict

By Holly Schubert

An armed convict who escaped from the Pontiac Correctional Center and took four hostages was apprehended by local police Monday evening in a rural area about five miles north of Sycamore.

Police captured fugitive Jessie Donald Sumner, 51, Stanford, at 5:15 p.m. shortly after a DeKalb police officer spotted a truck he had allegedly stolen in Yorkville going by the DeKalb County Jail in Sycamore.

Three squad cars pursued the truck north on State Route 23. Capt. James Laben of the DeKalb’s Sheriff Police said the units followed the truck, but the chase was not high-speed. Lights on the squad cars were activated, he said.

DeKalb Police Chief Joe Maciejewski said in a report to the DeKalb City Council Monday, “The driver, who he (DeKalb Police Officer Carl Leoni) assumed was the hostage, accelerated and turned the wheel sharply and then jumped out of the truck. The truck crashed into the field. The police officer put his car between the hostage and the suspect and kept him at bay. The suspect was armed with a gun.”

The truck crashed into a ditch in front of the Sunset View Apartment complex just past the intersection of Brickville Road and Sunset Drive.

Arnold Glass, a Sunset View Apartments resident, said, “I was in my garage and I saw the truck come down the road with three squads behind it. I heard a crash and I saw him (the convict) run into the field.”

Glass said one of the squad cars struck the hostage as he lay on the grass, but Laben later denied this in a press conference.

Laben said Sumner offered no resistance to a Sycamore Police officer after the officer fired one round. Sumner was transported to the DeKalb County Jail by deputies, where he was held alone under normal security awaiting transfer Monday night by the Illinois Department of Corrections back to Kendall County.

The hostage who had been driving the truck is a correction officer. He was listed in good condition, awaiting release from Kishwaukee Community Hospital Monday night. Witnesses said he suffered leg injuries when he jumped from the truck.

Police recovered two weapons, a .38-caliber revolver that had been taken from a correctional officer, and a 6-inch, loaded homemade derringer. The derringer was recovered by a canine unit that was called to the scene to assist police in the search for a missing weapon, Laben said.

Sumner, a four-time killer serving time at the Pontiac Correctional Center for murdering three Bloomington-area women, was being fitted for a hearing aid at a Joliet store at about 3 p.m. when he overcame two guards. Sumner took the guards and a store employee hostage.

He and his hostages fled Joliet in a corrections departmental vehicle and traveled about 40 miles north. Near Yorkville, Sumner released one of the guards and the store employee. He abandoned the state vehicle, stole a red pickup truck, and took the driver hostage.

Sumner released the truck driver in Hinckley and headed 25 miles north to Sycamore with his remaining hostage before the hostage jumped from the truck and Sumner was captured.

Laben said the Sycamore police will be charging Sumner with aggravated assault. Kendall County officials will decide on filing charges tomorrow after conferring with the state’s attorney there.

Sumner has served 14 years of a 50- to 100-year sentence for strangling ISU student Coreen Burchie in 1972. He is also serving extended sentences for killing waitress Rae Ann Schneider and another ISU student, Dawn Huwe.

At the time he killed Schneider and Huwe, Sumner was on parole for beating and stabbing to death Herschel Williams Jr., a man with whom Sumner was to go on trial for robbing a credit union. Sumner slit Williams throat with a straight razor after an argument at Sumner’s barber shop. Williams’ body was discovered later stuffed in a steel drum buried in a garbage dump near Bloomington.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.